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Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has said that the budget for next financial year, 2020-21 will be coronavirus impact-oriented, therefore a new strategy is being worked out under which priorities will be given to health services, employment generation, social security, and innovation in education sector.

This he said while presiding over a meeting to set strategy for the next budget, 2020-21. The meeting was attended by Chief Secretary Mumtaz Shah, CM Coordinators Haris Gzadra, Chairman P&D Mohammad Waseem and his team, Secretary Finance Hassan Naqvi and his team and other concerned.

The chief minister said the coronavirus emergency indicators such as increase in expenditures, decrease in the government revenues, decline in exports, unemployment and loss of purchasing power were horrible and needed to be addressed with new strategy.

He told his Finance and Planning & development team that the first and top priority would be given to strengthen health systems under which Covid-19 Emergency hospitals would be established.

"We are already establishing Coronavirus Emergency Centre at NIPA and similar facilities would be developed at all the divisional headquarters," he said. He added that all the other hospitals would be equipped with necessary gadgets.

Talking about employment generation, Murad Ali Shah said that Small, Medium Enterprises (SMEs) was hardest hit by the Covid-19 crises. Therefore, he added that SMEs were in need of small loans, subsidies, and such other concessions to sustain.

Shah said that soft loans would be given to SMEs, apart from other concessions and subsidies, adding amount of short-term loans would be up to Rs500,000 for small business and Rs2 million for medium enterprises.

Shah said investment would be made in agriculture sector where soft loans for purchasing export quality seeds, DAP, urea (on subsidy) would be advanced so that export quality rice, pulses and other crops could be cultivated. "I would direct minister agriculture to guide the growers, particularly the small ones to switch them over to seasonal crops, new cash crops and export-oriented crops so that they can revive themselves and contribute in national economy," he said.

He said loans would also be advanced for livestock and poultry. "This is a best business if the cattle are grown on scientific and healthy grounds - their demand in the international market is always on the rise," he said. He added the livestock & fisheries department would be activated to help the people engaged in livestock and fisheries sectors.

POVERTY ALLEVIATION: Shah said that in the next budget he wanted to start a poverty alleviation programme under which interest free loans would be given to individuals to start their business for which the government or its partners would offer technical assistance. These loans would be given to those who wanted to switch over from one small business activities to other or start a fresh. Womenfolk would be given priority and importance, he added.

EDUCATION: Shah said that despite limited resources and pandemic situation, we have to focus on education of our children. He added that new trends of teaching would be introduced so that in coronavirus situation educational activities keep thriving. "I have given a task to the Minister for Education to work out a detailed education plan, on line and in classes, so that it can be implemented through the next budget," he said.

DEVELOPMENT: The chief minister said the development budget might be curtailed to create budgetary space for health services, revival of economy by advancing loans to the traders, growers and in livestock and fisheries sectors. However, health department schemes, education, road sector water supply & sanitation would be given priority.

He said all the mega development projects would be initiated on public, private partnership. "This will help to minimise financial pressure on the government and help in creating employment opportunities," he said.

Shah said he had approached the World Bank and other donor agencies to help Sindh government to carry on development works and social protection programme while fighting against coronavirus.

SOCIAL PROTECTION: Shah giving guideline to his team said that his government wanted to start social protection strategy to target individual and families highly vulnerable to food insecurity through targeted income/food support, particularly in low-income high-density communities with high risk contagious diseases.

SHELTER HOMES: He also directed Chairman P&D Mohammad Waseem to prepare schemes for establishment of six shelter homes at divisional headquarters and two 'lost and found Children Centres' in Karachi. These centres would help support homeless people and lost and found children. "This is the time to work as welfare government and Inshallah we will not let our people alone at this critical time," he vowed.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020

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